It did not take Matt Kuchar long to take over the lead in the Shell Houston Open in Saturday’s third round. It took one hole, to be exact. Trailing Sergio Garcia by one shot after two rounds Kuchar birdied the first hole and, when Garcia took bogey, he had a lead he would not relinquish for the rest of the day. At 16 under par, Kuchar will take a four-shot lead into the final round on Sunday.
Garcia came back to tie Kuchar with birdie on the third hole but, like a proud fighter trading punches, Kuchar countered with birdies of his own on holes four and five to expand the lead to two shots. A bogey on the ninth hole shrunk the lead to one shot again as the two leaders headed to the back nine on the Golf Club of Houston Tournament Course in Humble, TX.
Any hopes that Sergio would retake the lead were dashed early in the inward nine, as the 34-year old Spaniard would fall victim to bogeys on both 10 and 11 while Kuchar made pars– then took the offensive. Three straight birdies grew Kuchar’s lead to as much as five strokes before he stumbled a bit on 18 with a bogey. Still, he leads by four with a 201 total over three days.
Garcia finished the day at one-over 73 and not only did he lose the lead, he caught for second place with Cameron Tringale at 205, 11 under par. Tringale had six birdies and three bogeys to record a 69. Australian Matt Jones is alone in fourth, shooting 71 despite a triple-bogey on the sixth hole. He finds himself six shots behind leader Kuchar in the 2014 Shell Houston Open. Ben Curtis and Rickie Fowler are seven back at eight under par. Fowler was bogey-free for the day, and Curtis could have been much higher on the leaderboard except for bogeys on 17 and 18.
Phil Mickelson’s scorecard said he shot even par 72 on the day, but pars were only part of his third round on Saturday. Lefty’s 18 holes included four birdies and four bogeys. He is nine shots in back of Kuchar at six under par. Even though chances of a win are slim, Mickelson seems a sure thing to post his best finish of the year so far on the PGA Tour at the Shell Houston Open. It is a good sign for him as he heads to Augusta National next week. Of his game, Mickelson says “It’s not far off.” He said his goal has been to get everything “put together on the same day.”
Kuchar will get plenty of time to relax with his big lead in the Shell Houston Open, as golfers finished their round early in the day. Tee times had been moved up three hours for Saturday’s third round because of the threat of severe weather in the Houston area. A situation might be developing for Sunday, where tee times have also been moved up due to an 80 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, including lightning. With the Masters on tap next week, officials will do everything within in their power to finish the tournament without having to move play to Monday.
Golf Shots is a daily series which provides analysis and commentary on the PGA tour and golf-related topics all year long.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
The Kansas City Star